Using games and play to teach your child how to swim will not only stimulate their imagination and engagement but also help alleviate the fears and anxieties often associated with being in the water and learning to swim.
The games and activities listed here are all based on the fundamental elements of swimming. Each game focuses on a specific aspect or combination of skills, ensuring that while your child is having fun, they are also learning and developing specific swimming abilities.
The key skills that children will focus on include:
1. Getting used to the water
2. Moving around the pool
7. Kicking their legs
8. Pulling with their arms
Each game or activity indicates the skill your child will learn, outlines the learning objective from a swimming perspective, mentions any necessary equipment, provides key phrases for your child to hear, and suggests progressions for when they become more confident or find the game easy.
1. Slide And Ski
Skill: Moving through the water.
Aim: Getting used to moving independently in the water.
In this game, your child moves forward through the pool by sliding their feet across the pool floor in a diagonal motion, as if they are skiing. This game can be played without lifting their feet from the pool floor, making it suitable for nervous or unbalanced children.
Key phrases: "Take your time, slowly at first," "Keep your feet on the floor," "Start with small movements and then make them bigger."
Progression: Place objects on the pool floor for your child to seek out and collect, encouraging them to use breath-holding and submersion skills if the water becomes deeper.
2. Steer The Speed Boat
Skill: Moving through the water and breathing.
Aim: Moving in different directions while maintaining breath control.
Your child holds a float or kick-board in front of them and steers it like a speed boat. They lower themselves to the water level, blow bubbles, and navigate the "boat." Objects placed on the water can be used as targets or obstacles for the boat to collect or steer around.
Key phrases: "Keep your chin on the water," "Take a deep breath and blow," "Make bubbles like an engine."
Progression: Have your child collect objects from under the water by taking a deep breath and submerging.
3. Blow It Along
Aim: Learning a basic breathing technique and gaining confidence in moving around the pool.
Your child crouches down in shallow water with their chin on the water's surface and walks around the pool, blowing a floating object along. A predetermined destination can be set for the object, encouraging your child to focus on their breath control and movement.
Key phrases: "Take a deep breath and blow," "Keep your chin on the water," "Let the water tickle your chin."
Progression: Race your child with another object over a set distance or have them complete a course within a specified time, adding a sense of urgency and speed to distract from any breathing anxieties.
4. Skydiver Landing
Skill: Standing up mid-swim.
Aim: Regaining a standing position from a floating position.
This game is played in chest-deep water and involves your child adopting a star-shaped floating position on their front. On your countdown, they pull down with their arms, bend their knees, and place their feet on the pool floor, mimicking a skydiver landing with a parachute.
Key phrases: "Pull down and back with both arms," "Lift your head up," "Bend your knees and pretend to sit."
Progression: Combine this game with the "shape shifter" game, having your child stand up from different floating positions.
Aim: Moving around the pool without touching or standing on the pool floor.
Your child plays this game in an upright vertical position with a pool noodle between their legs, using their legs in a cycling motion to move around the pool like a seahorse. Emphasize using their legs and feeling the water around them.
Key phrases: "Use your legs to move around the pool," "Feel the water around you."
Progression: Introduce arm movements for paddling and encourage blowing bubbles at the water's surface.
6. Take A Shower
Aim: Getting used to water pouring over the head and face.
In this game, you pour water over your child's head, allowing it to run down their face as if they are taking a shower. Encourage them to close their eyes, hold their breath, and use their hands to cup and pour water. You can use a sponge or toy watering can for added effect.
Key phrases: "Hold your breath," "Let the water run down," "Blink your eyes, and the water will go away."
Progression: Use a larger container to pour more water or pour the water slowly to prolong the "shower" experience.
7. How Many Fingers?
Aim: Learning to submerge with eyes open.
Play this game in shallow water with your child wearing goggles. They start by taking a deep breath, looking down from the water's surface, and counting the number of fingers you hold underwater. Gradually increase the difficulty by having them fully submerge their face and head before counting the fingers.
Key phrases: "Relax and take your time," "Take a deep breath and hold it all in."
Progression: Display your fingers under the water one at a time, encouraging your child to remain underwater slightly longer.
8. Rocket Launch
Aim: Adopting a streamlined position and traveling in a supine position.
In this game, your child starts by holding the poolside with both hands, facing away from the water. On your countdown, they push away from the poolside, gliding across the water's surface. Encourage them to stretch out, keep their arms by their sides, and look up to the sky.
Key phrases: "Stretch out," "Make your body long and thin," "Keep your arms by your sides," "Look up to the sky."
Progression: Play the game without buoyancy aids, encouraging your child to push off and glide with their arms stretched out.
9. Boil The Water
Aim: Learning an alternating kicking action and gaining confidence in splashing water.
Your child sits on the poolside with their legs stretched out straight in front, and their toes pointed. They kick their legs as if boiling water, adjusting the intensity based on the imaginary heat dial you turn. Encourage them to keep their toes pointed and kick with a floppy foot motion.
Key phrases: "Keep your toes pointed," "Kick with floppy feet."
Progression: Vary the speed of the kicks by adjusting the heat dial, helping improve kicking stamina.
10. Paddle Boarding
Aim: Learning and developing a basic arm-pulling movement.
Your child walks through waist or chest-deep water while performing a basic arm-pulling movement, mimicking the actions of paddles on a paddle boat. They can alternate their arm action or pull with both arms simultaneously.
Key phrases: "Reach and pull," "Make an upside-down cup shape with your hands," "Keep your fingers together."
Progression: Have your child lean forward, place their chin on the water's surface, blow bubbles, and continue reaching and pulling with their arms.
Remember to always prioritise safety and supervise your child closely during swimming activities. Encourage them, provide positive reinforcement, and make learning to swim a fun and enjoyable experience.